Crime used to be my famous genre during my childhood days. In addition to the children’s crime stories – Famous Five, Five Find Outers, Secret Seven, Three Investigators, Hardy Boys – I also started Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. So much so that I wanted to do my graduation in forensic sciences or in some electronic technology that helps be build cool surveillance gadgets used by detectives. But somewhere along the way, my interests changed and I went over to the realms of science fiction and fantasy. Since then I have not read much crime except for the works of Keigo Higashino which I found really brilliant. But overall I am not a hardcore crime fan. But Archana Sarat being one of my really good online friends, I picked up her ‘Birds of Prey.”
I found the story to be extremely gripping and I finished the entire book in 2 sittings – the journey to my office and the journey back. The scenes are short and the story keeps moving all the time. The language is not unnecessarily complicated. Overall the books was an easy read. It was not an easy one though in terms of subject matter. It deals with the extremely uncomfortable topic of child abuse. The criminal in this story is a victim of child abuse. On one side the author starts the story of a policeman called back from voluntary retirement to pursue the case of disappearance of a few men, that has been baffling the police force. And on a parallel track, we get glimpses of the criminal’s childhood days and the suffering she had to undergo. The author makes the reader really feel for her and almost makes the reader also want to seek revenge for everything done to her. In parallel, the author tries to make the reader root for the detective as well by showing his conflicting priorities – family versus profession. He is extremely passionate about his profession but his wife is concerned for his safety and wants him to leave the job. However between the two, the criminal wins hands down.
Since we know who the criminal is beforehand, it is not exactly a whodunit. The suspense is more around discovering what crime the missing men committed to deserve the attention of this criminal, how the detective through his investigations finds his way to the criminal and in the flashback how the criminal managed to eventually get out of her situation and reach her current position.
Details are clearly the author’s strength. The author makes the entire story come alive with her attention to even the minor details in the descriptions and in the natural dialogues. One can clearly see the story come alive right in front of one’s eyes. That combined with the fast pacing, makes the book a completely unputdownable read.
One area that I felt could have been better was the plotting. While the pacing and the horror of the theme keeps you so engaged that you miss these points while reading, when you reflect after you finish the final chapter, lot of things don’t look so plausible. As I said I am not a connoisseur of crime genre. But from what little I know, I feel this is a genre where plotting should be water tight – both from the point of view events leading to the crime, the circumstances and motivations of the criminal as well as the investigation procedure. Here I found too much depended on serendipity and overall suspension of disbelief was not very easy.
Overall I would say this has been a wonderful debut by this author and I look forward to her next books. It is a really light engaging read and I would recommend any reader with a couple of hours or so to kill to pick it up. There is not a single dull moment and you will just watch the time whiz past you.